If you’ve visited any auto manufacturers’ websites lately, chances are you’ve seen a car configurator. These are the applications that give you a bunch of tools and options to design your own car or truck.
You may have even used one to create your own Lamborghini or Ferrari. Or, if you’re more practical-minded, you may have built a Ford or Toyota. (Yes, even the Smart Car has a configurator.)
Why are so many car companies featuring these design apps on their websites? And could an online configurator boost sales for your products even if you’re not in the auto industry?
To answer these questions, let’s take a closer look at why online configuration tools are so popular among car companies.
The Importance of Personalization
On the showroom floor, a salesperson has the customer’s undivided attention. But on the web… not so much.
A study done by Adobe back in 2013 found that automotive companies had the second lowest average time spent on their websites across several key industries. But within the auto industry, the best performing sites were the ones that had the most personalized content.
Among the auto industry sites, the data showed that the top-performers engaged 56% of their visitors with a configurator. And the sites with interactive personalization tools were receiving 20% more traffic than the average site.
These same top-performing auto company websites pushed 60% more visitors to locate a dealer.
Findings like these are the biggest reason it’s hard to find a car company in 2017 that doesn’t offer access to a configurator on its website. But why are these tools so effective at engaging customers?
Product configurators lead to more engagement and higher sales for 3 main reasons:
They transform passive browsers into active designers. (Looking at Lamborghinis is fun, but designing your own… priceless.)
They make products both more memorable and more attractive because customers invested the time and effort to actively personalize them. (It’s not just any Lamborghini—it’s my Lamborghini.)
They make the buying process simple and seamless. (Scheduling a test drive for my Lamborghini is so easy—now I just need to come up with the cash.)
One fact nearly all consumer-path research points to is that people bounce around from website to website when they’re shopping, never staying on any single site for long. But if you’re busy designing your own vehicle, you’re probably not thinking about whose site to visit next.
Even if you do end up visiting multiple sites, you’re much more likely to remember and return to the one where you spent all that time actively engaged in customizing your own design. How could you forget the Lamborghini you made yourself?
Should You Feature a Product Configurator on Your Website?
For companies in the auto industry, the question is no longer whether you should have a configurator on your website. The question is how you can make your configurator more engaging than your competitors’. But what if you sell other kinds of products?
You can get a good start understanding a configurator’s potential for your company by answering these three questions:
2. Is engagement with your website a critical part of your customer’s journey?
Research shows that 86% of car buyers visit a manufacturer’s website as a last stop before going to the dealership. This is important because people don’t actually purchase cars through the websites, but the websites still play a central role in the sales process.
How would your customers use a configurator? At what stage of the journey would it come into play?
3. Would a configurator make the purchasing process easier (or more fun) for your customers?
One of the configurators Aptera’s team has built that became a huge success was for a company that offers custom metal-frame buildings to a network of builders. Obviously, the process of uploading all the necessary details before ordering an entire building can get pretty complicated. The configurator was such a hit among the builders because it simplified that process. Builders come back to use the tool—they stay to purchase the building.
Securing a Lead
While today it seems like every car company has one, there was a time when a single company had one. That one company jumped ahead of all its competitors to become one of those top-performers identified in the research.
You may be able to secure a similar advantage over your own competitors if you can be first to market with an online product configurator.
I'm Aptera's Content Strategist. I've been writing about tech and marketing for 5 years and have certifications from HubSpot and The Content Marketing Institute. A big science and literature geek, I taught college rhetoric and composition while I was still busy going to school for way too long, earning bachelor's degrees in anthropology and psychology, along with a master's in British and American literature. Look me up on LinkedIn.